Velella velella!

I am back from a wonderful (although somewhat wet) camping trip with some friends to Tofino, BC on the west coast of Vancouver Island (pictures to follow). Before I post on that (I still need to organize all the photos), I wanted to show a few pictures of a creature I had never seen (or heard of) before: Velella velella or more commonly, by-the-wind sailors. (Not to be confused with the Seattle Band)

We first saw and heard of these Cnidaria while on a whale watching boat when we came to huge amounts of these creatures just floating along together:

We were told that this little things, which are related to Jellyfish, are one of a very few species that have a rigid sail as a means of movement by the wind. Apparently the sail is at 55 degrees to the wind which is a fairly effective angle to sail by. It is also interesting to note that Velella that live on opposite shores (like over in Japan) will have the sail oriented in the opposite direction (so called right and left handed). Like Jellyfish, they have tentacles that hang down to sting and catch their prey (but don’t worry if you come across them, they are not strong enough to pierce human skin). Later, while walking on the beach, we came across thousands and thousands of Valella washed up on shore (it was hard to know if they would die there or if they would be washed back out to sea…), it seems their sails had failed some of them:

And here they are up close:

And here is an image from this site that shows the tentacles hanging down (I never got to see these):

Interesting, eh? I had no idea about these little Valella! There are so many interesting creatures out there!

Wikipedia - Valella
Monterey Bay Aquarium - By-the-wind sailor
JelliesZone - Velella
Marine Life Information Network for Britain and Ireland - By-the-wind-sailor - Velella velella
Cornwall Wildlife Trust - By-the-wind sailor (Velella velella)
Oregon State and NOAA - Velella velella (PDF)

PS: Won’t be back till Monday or so because I have an interview at Western tomorrow and then parents are moving on Sunday. Busy weekend!

Categories: Daily Life, Science
  1. Casey
    April 30th, 2006 at 11:37 | #1

    The Velella that wash up on the beach will actually dry out with their sail still intact. When they’re dry they look like someone’s top layer of skin (like a thumb print) with a little sail attached. They’re very delicate when dry but really cool looking:)

  2. May 2nd, 2006 at 22:16 | #2

    (off topic, sorry…) Did you see the latest Google toy?

    A very nifty 3d modeling tool, and it works with Google Earth. I thought you’d get a kick out of it, being a fellow Google junkie. :-)

  3. May 2nd, 2006 at 22:17 | #3

    Doh! Helps to put the link.

  4. May 3rd, 2006 at 11:49 | #4

    Have you seen them in Washington before Casey?

    I did see the new toy, but haven’t been able to play with it much yet. Hopefully my inner architect with come out… or I will just get frustrated and stop using it. ;)

  5. Casey
    May 5th, 2006 at 23:38 | #5

    Yeah I’ve seen them in Washington. They actually washed ashore last spring/summer near Port Townsend. Apparently it was the first time the locals had seen them in about 10 years. That was the first time I’d seen them.

  6. May 21st, 2006 at 21:49 | #6

    Got your comment to my valella picture. Yours are much cooler looking with the blue in them. Ours all appeared grey (as did everything on our rainy weekend at the coast).

  7. May 22nd, 2006 at 12:49 | #7

    I had never seen them down in Washington before so it was cool to see them up on Vancouver Island. It looks like Oregon sure had a large volume!

  1. June 8th, 2009 at 18:39 | #1

%d bloggers like this: